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    Queen of Earth (2015): Movie Review

    “A talky yet mesmerizing psychological battle between two girl friends.” 

    What breaks people? And what drives them apart? In Alex Ross Perry’s intensely tormenting psychological thriller Queen of Earth, two women friends suffer love-hate syndrome. As their internal turmoil translates into threats of physical violence, they will discover long-buried mutual antipathy, insecurity, and self-destructive egoism.

    The film opens with a close-up shot of Catherine (Elisabeth Moss) in what seems to be in an angry and agonizing state of mental breakdown. With hair dishevelled and makeup smearing around her eyes, she is pleading with her unfaithful boyfriend James (Kentucker Audley) who is dumping her for someone else.

    To recuperate, her long-time best friend Virginia (Katherine Waterston), or Ginny to her friends only, invites her to spend some quiet time at her family’s lakeside house. In between hiking, painting and reading books, the two friends are either comforting or criticizing each other. The tension intensifies when Virginia also invites over her neighbor Rich (Patrick Fugit).

    The same dynamics happened a year earlier when Catherine brought along her ex-boyfriend to what supposedly their girls’ weekend. Virginia was exasperated by that time. The tables have turned as it is Catherine who must now endure a male presence in their company. With their friendship slowly fracturing and well-kept pains unearthed, Catherine must hold on to every thread of sanity in her.

    Unlike most films in the genre, Queen of Earth is vigorous and mesmerizing. While it is mostly mysterious and obscure, it is coldly and wickedly funny at some points. It does not have a twisty plot; its engrossing appeal is due to brilliant filmmaking and performances of the actors. It is not even bloody or physically violent; its frightening aspect is due to the state of the characters' mental and emotional well-being. Here, we have two friends who are terribly and brutally honest with each others. They do not catfight; they simply lash out at each other with devastating words and in complete chilly tone, pushing the other to be even more hurtful. Between the two, Catherine is more unhinged and unpredictable. With her father’s death and her ex-boyfriend abandoning her, she becomes emotionally unstable and socially repulsive. But Virginia is not without a problem. Her resentment and jealousy grow stronger with each day she spends with Catherine. And each time, these two unusual friends are tireless in pointing out their wrongs, enough that Catherine approaches the brink of madness. They say they care about each other, but do they? Really?

    Simply said, the film is an intriguing analysis of complex temperaments, bitter perceptions and hardboiled personal issues. The two leads may be skating between friendship and enemies but both recognize the need for a company, not simply because they can depend on the other but due to some narcissistic viewpoint. With their sense of entitlement and superiority, they need to feel they are above the other. As the title suggests, the idea of being the “queen” is their defense against their own self-sabotaging traits.

    Much of the film is told in monologues, each friend speaking in soliloquies, the message addressed more to the speaker than the listener. Interestingly, the camera focuses more frequently on the listener, capturing her unbridled reactions. Such scenes are shot in off-kilter camera angles or claustrophobic close-ups, creating tenser and tauter atmosphere.

    Moss and Waterston both deliver piercing performances. Moss kills Catherine as she switches different masks – from humorous to easy to paranoid and to mildly demonic. She has so much to work on her palette but she does them splendidly. With that poker face, Waterston brings saintly menace to Virginia. Fugit is also notable as the nasty, mind-playing leading man. 

    Queen of Earth is indeed suspenseful because of the psychological warfare of its characters. With its dark humor, playful shots and portentous musical score, the chill is further intensified. It may be an art house but it still misses some commercial value. It is also quite upsetting that the film ends with no proper conclusion. 

    Production company: IFC Films 
    Cast:  Elisabeth Moss, Katherine Waterston, Patrick Fugit, Kentucker Audley, Keith Poulson, Craig Butta, Kate Lyn Sheil 
    Director:  Alex Ross Perry
    Producers:  Elisabeth Moss, Alex Ross Perry, Joe Swanberg, Adam Pitrowicz 
    Screenwriter:  Alex Ross Perry 
    Executive producers:  Peter Gilbert, Edwin Linker, Christos V. Konstantakopoulos 
    Director of photography:  Sean Price Williams 
    Production designer:  Anna Bak-Kvapil 
    Costume designer:  Amanda Ford 
    Editor:  Robert Greene 
    Music:  Keegan DeWitt


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